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article imageNations implore WHO to rethink definition of swine flu pandemic

By Michael Krebs     May 18, 2009 in Health
After sixth death in U.S. in NYC assistant principal, nations around the world are asking World Health Organization officials to tread softly on pandemic elevations.
Only a day after the H1N1 swine flu killed an assistant principal in New York City and 12 public schools were closed in New York City region due to the swine flu bug, numerous nations have appealed to the World Health Organization to soften the definition of pandemic outbreak and to take a measure on the impact the current strain poses to global mortality rates.
The body of nations said that the agency should consider how deadly a virus is - and not just how fast it spreads across the globe.
"Fearing a swine flu pandemic declaration could spark mass panic and economic devastation, Britain, Japan, China and others asked the global body to tread carefully before raising its alert. Some cited the costly and potentially risky consequences, such as switching from seasonal to pandemic vaccine, even though the virus so far appears to be mild," Associated Press reported.
The swine flu is currently at WHO-defined phase 5 - meaning the virus is spreading unchecked within two or more countries. Phase 6 means that a global pandemic is underway. 40 nations have confirmed cases of H1N1 swine flu virus currently.
"A pandemic announcement would likely have severe economic consequences: It could trigger expensive trade and travel restrictions such as border closures, airport screenings and quarantines," reports AP.
There are concerns among governments over large-scale panic and unnecessary livestock slaughter, as has been seen in Egypt.
"People don't understand what 4, 5 or 6 means," Mexico's Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told reporters, according to the AP report. "They think that when you go to a higher level things are worse."
While the virus appears to be mild, it is sickening younger - and more healthy - demographics, and largely leaving babies and the elderly alone.
UN and WHO officials are expected to meet with pharmaceutical companies on Tuesday to discuss potential vaccines.
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